- Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine
Abbey Carpets Unlimited Abbey Tile & Stone
Photo: Derek Everhart
Much More Than a Carpet Store
In November of 1985, Janice Clifton and her father, John Hartley, took a huge leap of faith. Janice, a professional accountant, assisted a client who hoped to sell their business. Pat and Jay Sibbett, owners of what was then known as Carpet Remnants Unlimited, were disappointed when the sale fell through. Considering the long relationship they already had with Janice and her father, Jay and Pat offered to sell the business to them––at no money down. The incredible offer was too good to refuse. Janice and her father banded together and made the transition from accountant and employee, to business owners.
Soon after, in February 1986, relentless rains caused the building to flood. This occurrence was a surprise to Janice, as the she was told the building doesn’t flood. Unfortunately, the previous owners had no idea what was to come. “Three months in and we had––trial by flood.” Janice reminisced, “The landlord was responsible for the cost of building repairs, but we incurred major damage to the inventory. Lucky for them, there were many carpet mills at the time. They were generous and assisted with replacing the inventory on terms. And, our clients needed to replace their carpets due to damage,” Janice said. “It worked out in the end, but it was a huge learning curve for us.” Since then, the building has flooded three times, to the point of water rising up the walls. (Since the Napa County Flood Control project was implemented it hasn’t happened again.)
Three years later, Richard Bell, the owner of the physical building, hoped to sell out too. After a conversation with Janice, he extended another unbelievable offer to allow her to purchase the building with, again, no money down. She was all in now!
With the changes of ownership there was another rendition of the business name––for a period of time it was known as Carpets & Furniture Unlimited. Janice didn’t have a passion for furniture, “Selling furniture just wasn’t my thing. If I liked the look and feel of something, I could be sure no one else would!” Eventually that department was disbanded. In 1988, they became part of the Abbey Carpets family, making the name change official in 1995. The rest is history…thirty-three years in business and still going strong.
In the beginning, the only flooring options were carpets and vinyl, with carpet sales being close to eighty percent of the business. With the contemporary use of hardwood and laminate flooring, the carpet side of the business diminished to less than forty percent.
For many years Janice’s husband, Jon Clifton, kept the family afloat with his job at Mare Island working full-time and helping Janice and John when needed. About twenty years ago, he retired and joined the Abbey Carpets staff full-time. One of the most appreciated projects he took on–– shows how Jon’s mind works and how the Clifton’s value their staff ––was when Jon noticed the difficulties staff and clients had perusing through heavy and cumbersome floor samples when displayed flat on the floor. It didn’t take him long to figure out a solution. He bought lumber and designed stands to display the samples upright, which eliminated the need to lift them. Not only did it improve the shopping experience, it created valuable floor spac which has since been filled with even more carpet and flooring samples than before.
The Tile & Stone product lines were added about fifteen years ago. Abbey Carpets Unlimited took on high quality tile products to showcase. Their expansive showroom highlights numerous lines, all of which are manufactured in the USA. The popularity of decorative tile has exploded the past ten years, but in the last five––it has gone off the charts! The variety of designs, color schemes and visuals that can be created with the artistic use of tile and grout is unlimited. The selections vary from large format tile, architectural, backsplash, glass and metal tiles. The descriptions alone set your imagination free…browsing through the samples, we find marble, quartz, travertine, and wood or slate flooring, the list goes on. The further into the showroom we go, the more interesting the products become. You will set your creative spirit free.
Don’t be intimidated about your level of your knowledge. A long time employee, Justin Ruffin, shared his feelings, “I really enjoy helping customers put together their tile projects from start to finish. We have a huge tile selection here and it can be a bit overwhelming for first time customers, but we can narrow it down for you, creating a masterpiece that will last a lifetime. The customer service you get here is like no other. We go above and beyond your expectations and flooring needs. I’ve been very blessed to work here and look forward to many more years.” Installation is subcontracted, and Abbey Carpets Unlimited only works with professionals that are licensed and bonded. Janice assures her clients the installers and contractors are trustworthy and experienced. Every effort is made to see the installations are completed as quickly as possible, “I can usually get the carpets installed in one week. Tile––maybe two.” They also utilize the services of talented local, interior designers.
Every item available for purchase is quality. “We stand behind what we sell. I’d feel terrible if something we sold didn’t hold up well,” Janice said. “At the same time, we make sure to stock affordable, mid-quality lines that may be installed quickly when needed.”
The Abbey Carpets Unlimited team is rounded out with a loyal staff of eighteen employees. Joann Hamblin has seniority––racking up thirty-nine years to date. She has more years of service than the owners! Their newest employee, Ron, in the tile department, looks forward to a many years ahead with his new job. The longevity of the employees guarantees their clients receive high quality, experienced assistance. Some employees have seen the same homeowner through numerous remodels. The continuity of their knowledge is invaluable to clients.
As a member of the World Floor Covering Association, Janice worked her way through the positions of the board, up to becoming the first female Chairperson of the organization. To her, this was, “Quite an accomplishment as the owner of a smaller store in a small town. Most of the members have many more stores.” She has also been part of the Abbey Carpets Board Association for over twenty-five years. The time she spent with these major players in the industry have garnered her knowledge she could not have gotten anywhere else. “These experiences have made a huge impact on how I run my business.”
Abbey Carpets Unlimited is a true Napa Valley community booster. “We have been super blessed, and we want to contribute.” Janice values her ability to ‘give-back’ to the community in an efficient manner by donating merchandise, or offering products at cost whenever possible. It allows local nonprofits to afford upgrades and remodels when their budget doesn’t stretch far enough to get the job done.
Looking to update, refresh or build new? Don’t forget your local purveyor, Abbey Carpets Unlimited and Abbey Stone & Tile are here to help you create the beautiful, comfortable home you desire.
When asked about retiring, Janice told us, “I’m not looking to retire anytime soon. I love all the people I work with, and the environment here is wonderful. What’s the point?” She smiled as she looked through the showroom at her employees.
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